The Xbox Series X's 'Gameplay' Reveal Wasn't That Bad

Gaming article by Anson Chan on Monday, May 11, 2020 - 12:00
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Topic(s): Xbox Series X

It's really important to set the right expectations

By most standards, the Xbox Series X's "gameplay" reveal left a lot to be desired. For starters, it barely showed any actual live gameplay. As far as can be told, most of what was debuted over the course of an hour were trailers and heavily scripted game footage. There were some developer interviews strewn in there too, some of which were admittedly mildly interesting, but nothing particularly exciting came of it. It also became rather clear that if you wanted to see the big name games, you'd have to wait until July. Comparisons could be made to a standard E3 presentation, but not in a good way.

That being said, a lot of the failures of the gameplay reveal can be attributed to the fact that the word "gameplay" was even mentioned. If the right expectations were conveyed, the reception would've likely been better. After all, the absolute worst-case scenario is that everything that was shown off was pre-rendered on some supercomputer. The best case scenario on the other hand presents a much more interesting, and daresay better, opportunity for everyone involved. Indeed, it could even be good news regardless of whether you intend to get an Xbox Series X, PC, PlayStation 5, or any combination of the three. 

For starters, it wasn't a AAA first-party developer clown fiesta where everything is hyped as the next big game that you'll be playing for a decade. That, as mentioned before, will be saved for July. In fact, the two big name reveals, Assassin's Creed Valhalla and Madden, were easily the least interesting part of the stream. Instead, what we saw was mostly indie titles or games made by relatively small developers. Even in the worst case scenario where everything was pre-rendered, this served two distinctly beneficial purposes. The first is that the Xbox Series X's specs finally got translated into something that everyone can understand. 

The second is that all these smaller developers suddenly got propelled to the forefront of the next gen conversation. During previous generations, the AAA titles got all the attention because they looked the best, or had the longest E3 presentation, or simply had near infinite funding. Now you have a showcase of smaller developers with beautiful looking games that rival the best that this generation has to offer both in scale and aesthetics. It's more than just a happy little coincidence that Microsoft can (and will) use this opportunity to show how good everything looks exclusively on their next gen console.

Take Scorn for example, the game that is clearly lifted straight from H.R. Gieger's dreams. If the actual game looks even remotely similar (both conceptually and graphically) to what was shown in the trailer, then it would make Alien: Isolation look like a boring walk in the park by comparison. The Medium, another spooky horror game, legitimately might be too much for people to handle until everyone gets acquainted with the new generation of graphics. Chorus, by mere virtue of being of space combat game, could be a very graphically impressive game that would put Elite: Dangerous to shame. Frankly it's already more interesting than Star Citizen because it has a tangible release window. If developers are confident enough in the Xbox Series X and the next generation of gaming hardware to pursue such projects, then it speaks volumes about the technological leap that we are making. 

Then there's the games that showed some form of in-game footage, scripted as they may be. Bright Memory Infinite, the Titanfall-esque game with a DeLorean, has weather and lighting effects that can seemingly rival what can be found in modern Battlefield games—except that it's allegedly made by just one guy and not a AAA studio. Second Extinction, the game where you shoot dinosaurs, appears to have some nasty (in a good way) gore effects that are roughly comparable to DOOM Eternal's. Call of the Sea appears to have excellent lighting and water effects but combined with a delightfully colorful aesthetic. The Ascent, the top down sci-fi shooter, has debris physics and impact effects that you would've rarely, if ever, seen in a game of the genre years ago. Again, regardless of if you want an Xbox Series X, PC, or PS5, there is a great leap forward in power that developers have access to.

It's a little telling that the most "normal-looking" games that were shown off at the Xbox Series X gameplay debut, namely Vampire: The Masquerade- Bloodlines 2, Yakuza: Like a Dragon, and Scarlet Nexusdon't appear to be particularly slacking in the graphical or (hopefully) gameplay department. Sure, two minutes of trailer footage isn't exactly a good indicator of a game's quality, but the proposed scope of the games is interesting on its own accord. Amusingly enough, Dirt 5, the racing game, might have been the best showcase of the raw potential of next-gen hardware. Regardless of whether it's pre-rendered footage or in-game footage, racing games can simply afford to put great emphasis on graphics.

At the end of the day, perhaps the most important lesson is that while the Xbox Series X gameplay stream was poorly advertised, it revealed the future of gaming. Namely that raw graphical quality is, with any luck, going to be equalized between AAA, mid-sized, and indie developers. Which, in turn, further emphasizes the importance of delivering good gameplay experiences. You can kind of see that happening today, though less blatantly. In addition, it should be kept in mind that what was shown off was merely the beginning of a new generation. There is no reason at all to expect games to plateau. That alone was worth sitting through the Xbox Series X presentation, as no other industry can offer such crystal balls to their audience.

About the Author

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Anson Chan

Staff Writer

You ever wonder why we're here? It's one of life's greatest mysteries, isn't it?